How to convert an older Quicken data file to use on Mac OS 10.7 Lion

This is my very occasional geeky/techy article, written because this problem was a major PIMA!

By way of brief background, I have used Quicken to manage my finances since the late 1990’s, and have remained a faithful user despite a few little issues over the years. Princess Gail and I use Quicken every day to keep track of our vast empire (ROTF LMAO!) 😀

The latest Quicken problem for Mac users has to do with converting Quicken data files to be compatible with Apple’s new Mac OS 10.7, aka “Lion.” Both Intuit (maker of Quicken) and Apple are to blame: Quicken for not keeping their Mac products current (as Apple moved from PowerPC to Intel chips) and Apple for not loudly warning Quicken users of a major incompatibility, knowing it would affect household and business financial management for Quicken users upgrading to Lion.

Every year, Princess Gail and I ask ourselves if we shouldn’t upgrade our old Quicken 2004 (Q 2004) but it has always worked well, and we couldn’t see how a program that simply adds and subtracts numbers could change all that much. So we kept using the 2004 version. We were oblivious to the PowerPC and Intel incompatibility that was to become a critical issue with Mac OS 10.7 Lion.

Apparently, the previous version of Mac OS, 10.6, still had a way to read old PowerPC programs (including our old Q 2004) by way of a translator called Rosetta that worked in the background. The new Mac OS 10.7 Lion does not support old PowerPC programs at all. Even the Rosetta translator is not supported.

So after we upgraded our computers to Mac OS 10.7 Lion, we quickly discovered that Quicken would not run, and we had no access to years of financial data, most importantly our current tax year info and our current checkbook entries.

The solution was tricky, but here it is:

The newest Quicken product is Quicken Essentials (QE) which does run on the Mac OS 10.7 Lion. We needed our old Q 2004 data file to be converted to the QE format, but this could NOT be done on Mac OS 10.7 Lion. It had to be done on Mac OS 10.6 before one upgrades to 10.7 Lion. Further, QE can only convert files from Quicken 2006 and 2007, not from our ancient 2004 version.

So we first had to find a copy of Quicken 2006 or 2007. I managed to find Q 2006 and loaded into an old Mac running an older Mac OS. I was able to convert our Q 2004 data file to the Q 2006 format.

I then tried loading the new QE program on that old Mac but it would not run on an old PowerPC Mac. QE requires the Intel chip of the newer Mac models.

At this point I had two options. One was to find or borrow a newer Mac model that had not been upgraded to 10.7 Lion, install QE, and use it to convert my Q 2006 data file to the QE format.

The other option, which is what I actually did, was to learn how to partition the hard disk on my current Mac which is running 10.7 Lion, and load an older Mac OS into the new partition so I could use that to install QE and do my file conversion.

You can do a search to find easy tutorials on how to partition a Mac hard disk. I learned how to carve out a 20GB partition on the hard disk of my computer that is upgraded to 10.7 Lion. That was more than twice the space needed to load the 8GB Mac OS 10.6. So I loaded 10.6 into that partition and then I installed QE into that. I was then able to convert my Q 2006 data file to the QE format. Finally, I switched back to the 10.7 Lion partition and was able to translate the PowerPC version of the QE data file to the new Intel version of the QE data file. Whew! It was a lot of work, but we had over 6,000 bank transactions on that file. It was completely worth the effort.

The most important point: You can avoid all our troubles by simply buying Quicken Essentials before you upgrade to Mac OS 10.7 Lion. I wish I had known that!

Quicken Essentials is not as full featured as Quicken for Mac 2007. You will want to go to their site and compare features. For us, since we use it mainly as a check book register and for the associated reports, Quicken Essentials is all we need. For those out there who were using features in Q 2007 not available in QE, I suggest you get QE anyway and hold on to all your older data files. I predict that Intuit will eventually come out with a full featured Quicken for Mac that will run on Lion. The Apple Macintosh platform is dramatically gaining market share, especially with laptop and iPad users, where others are in decline. Intuit is a good company and will certainly respond to that.

I hope this is helpful to someone. I can’t imagine we were the only ones with this bummer of a problem! But we figured it out and now we’re happy! 🙂

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